May 13, 2005
Against the charge of universalism, Martindale points out that in Lewis' works people DO go to Hell. They deserve to be there; in fact, in The Great Divorce, the choose to go there. If anything, Lewis could be accused of being slightly inclusivistic -- he believes that people are judged based on the grace they have been given, rather than professing faith in a Christ they have never known about. I certainly would disagree with Lewis on that point, as many evangelicals would.
Lewis's stand on Purgatory is interesting. He sees Purgatory as the vehicle by which we are sanctified before we enter Heaven, rather than a "second chance" for non-believers to get their act together to get into Heaven. I agree that believers are made pure by the working of the Holy Spirit; I disagree that it happens after death.
We need to remember that for all his great intellect, and his obvious writing talent, that Lewis was not a theologian. He was an academician, and very intelligent, and an apologist without equal in his day. But he was not theologically trained, and we should not use him to determine our theology. If he was wrong, we can say that he was wrong without having to abandon the ideas that he got right.
Much of Martindale's book is literary criticism: he looks closely at the symbols and imagery that Lewis uses, and shows their meaning in terms of Heaven and Hell. He assumes that the reader has at least a passing familiarity with Lewis' work, which I am increasingly aware that I do not have. The Space Trilogy is referenced many times -- I have put reading that trilogy at the top of my must read list. I've decided that I really need to start reading more C.S. Lewis -- the weekly readings out of Mere Christianity aren't enough. And I'm buying the Narnia set to read to my daughter.
The benefits of reading this book are numerous. I've gained an appreciation for C.S. Lewis beyond what I already had. But more importantly, my desire for heaven and my outlook on the afterlife has been slightly changed. More than a merely spiritual existance, we have a life to look forward to -- a life full of enjoyment and pleasure, unburdened by the worry and bondage of sin. We will be able to do what we want, because our desires will be pure.
This book should be on the shelf of anyone who reads and enjoys Lewis' works, both fiction and nonfiction. It should also be on the shelf of anyone who is interested in learning some very different ways of looking at both Heaven and Hell.
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